Psychopathy: What drives pathological selfishness?

Psychopaths are known for their selfishness, callousness, and violence. These antisocial personality traits are often baffling to the rest of us, but could brain differences help to explain them? And, more importantly, do such hardwired differences help or hinder treatment?

Some psychopaths are killers, but some make for great businessmen, researchers say.

Psychopathy is generally considered to be a personality disorder.

Although the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) does not formally acknowledge psychopathy as a standalone condition, it incorporates it under the wider “antisocial personality disorder.”

But what is a psychopath? In 1993, Canadian psychologist Robert Hare, the creator of the famous Hare Psychopathy Checklist, defined psychopaths as “social predators who charm, manipulate, and ruthlessly plow their way through life.”

“Completely lacking in conscience and feeling for others,” he goes on to say, psychopaths “selfishly take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without the slightest sense of guilt or regret.”

Does any of this sound familiar? The stereotypical portrait of the psychopath may call to mind such fictional characters as Hannibal Lecter, or even real personalities such as the serial killers Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer. However, some argue that most psychopaths live among us.

According to recent estimates, just below 1 percent of non-institutionalized males in the United States are psychopaths.

Despite this small percentage, people who have psychopathy are 20–25 times more likely to be incarcerated than non-psychopaths, and half of all violent crimes in the U.S. are committed by psychopaths.

That said, if you feel as though this definition could easily fit your boss or your neighbor, you might be right. In his book Snakes in Suits, Hare argues that psychopaths are more numerous than we might think, many of them fitting perfectly, and even thriving in, the corporate world or that of politics.

“[N]ot all psychopaths are killers,” Hare writes. “They are more likely to be men and women you know who move through life with supreme self-confidence — but without a conscience.”

In this article, we will attempt to find out exactly what goes on inside the brain of such supremely confident yet conscienceless people. Is there such a thing as a neurological explanation for callousness? Can anything be done to correct it? more here: